It had been just over three long years since a hometown hero-fronted Escape the Fate had played what it considers a “proper” headline gig, and fans seemed well aware of that at the band’s March 10 show at Crescent Ballroom.
Before the doors opened for the Friday night affair, fans crowded a Downtown Phoenix venue and waited in a lengthy line to enter the intimate venue.
Once inside, fans either congregated at the bar, took first dibs on merchandise or camped out at the foot of the stage, laying stake to the best view in the house to catch a glimpse of the oncoming bands.
Though a considerable number of fans traveled from far and wide to catch the headline act, others flocked to jam out to locally grown opening acts Jane N’ the Jungle, Inept Hero and Not Nearly.
Jane N’ the Jungle
Kicking things off at 8 p.m. was the Phoenix-based hard rock outfit Jane N’ the Jungle, which, as the name would allude, brought some old-school hard rock that created a party-like atmosphere.
Adding to the band’s glammy sound was an aesthetic that featured most of the band rocking leather jackets, vibrant makeup and classic instruments like a Flying V guitar, a Gibson Les Paul guitar and a classic Fender bass that added to the ante.
Although the band’s tracks had a strong musical backing providing thunderous drumming and heart-pounding riffs, vocalist Jordan White stole the show with her powerful voice that reverberated throughout the venue during the band’s 30-minute set.
Though each of the eight songs played during Jane N’ the Jungle’s set list managed to get the Crescent Ballroom rocking, the big highlight of the night came when the band broke out the track “Dirty Dog,” which carried a similar cadence to the hits produced by the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin by mixing thunderous drums with a thick-sounding riff that cascaded into a harmonious lick and solo that meshed melodically with White’s vocals.
The band closed out the quick gig with a special treat, an unreleased track titled “Life of the Party” that served as a momentum builder for the rest of the bands on the bill.
Raw as a Jewel
Ain’t No Other Way
Life of the Party
Six-piece East Valley-based punk/hardcore outfit Inept Hero took the stage 10 minutes later, wasting no time making its Crescent Ballroom debut by blaring a sound into the speakers somewhat reminiscent of late 2000s emo and early 2010s metalcore.
In addition to entering a new genre of metal into the fold, Inept Hero utilized its twin guitars and dueling vocalists to round out a sound that would be complemented by the band’s drums, bass and occasional use of a synth machine.
After getting fans quickly familiarized with its up-tempo sound that juxtaposed melodic rhythms with fits of guttural screams and heavy breakdowns with the first track “Consumer,” the band took its set to new heights with the jaunty tune “Pirate Pyramid Scheme,” which was accentuated by a swing tempo that would crescendo into a pulsating punk rhythm.
With a tone set by the time the band reached its third track, titled “Shablagoo” — a reference to a catchphrase uttered by the South Park character Bradley Biggle before transforming into the hero known as Mint Berry Crunch — Inept Hero managed to get the venue grooving by commanding fans to wave their hands to the tempo of the tune and bounce to the allegro rhythms.
The energy would not waiver throughout the band’s 25-minute performance, carrying through to the final notes of the set-concluding tune “Pharmacophobia” — the band’s latest single.
Pirate Pyramid Scheme
IDK… Satan’s Pretty Cool
Roughly 20 minutes after Inept Hero’s high-octane set list, Phoenix-based four-piece emo/post-hardcore outfit Not Nearly — which is fronted by bassist and vocalist Colton “Coba” Westerman, who also plays bass in Escape the Fate frontman Craig Mabbitt’s side project Dead Rabbitts, took the stage and offered a prize of a free T-shirt to the first fan to start a mosh pit.
After the dare to the audience, Not Nearly launched into a 40-minute performance and set an early tone by displaying Westerman and guitarist/vocalist Johnny Natoli’s dueling scream vocal stylings that intertwined fuzzy guitar licks and polyrhythmic drumming.
By the second tune, guitarist Tanner Norquist showed off his chops by shredding the strings with an impressively intricate guitar solo.
After the conclusion of the second tune of the night, “Happy Birthday,” Westerman took some time to wish a happy birthday to his mother, who was in the audience celebrating the day by watching her son do what he loves the most.
Following the wholesome moment of the set list, Not Nearly went back to work on getting heads banging and bodies grooving to its selection of music.
Then came something somewhat unexpected.
Not Nearly welcomed its unofficial fifth member of the band on stage in the form of bassist Randy Thomas, who was met with the ultimate rockstar treatment as the crowd began chanting his name so loudly it drowned out the ominous intro leading into the next track.
This became the theme throughout the rest of the set, as each song ended and began with the crowd cheering for Randy.
Although Not Nearly culled almost its entire set list from its latest work, a 2021 album called “Future Damage,” the band concluded things with the first single it ever released, 2018’s “The Grand Scheme of Things,” which began and ended with a bang provided by drummer Ben Alfich.
(Expletive) the Future
Big Gas Pack
The Grand Scheme of Things
Escape the Fate
As the clock struck 20 minutes past 10, so came the moment some fans had waited three long years for: the triumphant return of Escape the Fate to vocalist Craig Mabbitt’s hometown.
Though Mabbitt resides in Glendale, which is roughly 15 miles from the Crescent Ballroom, it was close enough for the audience that included several friends, family, members of the band’s management and even his tattoo artist.
Because of this, the venue exploded with cheers as the lights went dark and became only illuminated by the glowing sea of cellphones hoping to record the moment the band returned to a Phoenix-area stage.
This occurred as an ominous piano medley featuring electronic drums began to play to the rhythm of the band’s hit song “One for the Money.”
Though this served as a suspense-building intro, it did not go according to plan, as the band had also had an intricate light feature planned to accompany the track.
Because of this, Mabbitt asked if the light crew could try the intro again.
Though the set list began with a slight hiccup, it continued on without a hitch.
Escape the Fate started things off by plucking the vibrant track “Gorgeous Nightmare” from its 2010 debut self-titled album.
Escape the Fate kept things rolling by pulling another track off Mabbitt’s debut record with the band by strumming the song “Issues.”
After rocking two songs from Mabbitt’s first body of work, Escape the Fate pivoted into some more contemporary tunes like “Lightning Strike,” the opening track from 2021s “Chemical Warfare” and its latest singles “Not My Problem” and “H8 MY SELF.”
In addition to teasing what new music from the band could sound like, it also allowed fans to soak in the contributions made by the band’s newest members, bassist and Mesa resident Erik Jensen and guitarist Matti Hoffman, who have respectively added to the heaviness of the rhythm section and filled the void of ear-piercing, virtuoso-style guitar licks left by the departure of long-time guitarist Kevin “Thrasher” Gruft.
This paved the way for Mabbitt to point out that Jensen’s family and girlfriend were in the audience and Hoffman’s parents made the trek up the I-10 from Tucson to take in the show.
Though Hoffman and Jensen provided a breath of fresh air to the band, it still felt good for fans to see the band’s sole remaining original member drummer Robert Ortiz back behind the kit — which recently grew to a gargantuan double bass drum kit, as opposed to the single bass kit he rocked on previous jaunts — and longtime guitarist TJ Bell shredding the strings again.
Following the newer tunes, Escape the Fate returned to the older hits by ripping through tracks like “10 Miles Wide,” “Ashley” and “Broken Heart.”
In between each song, Hoffman used the time to briefly show off his impressive guitar prowess by quickly shredding intricate solos and was chomping at the bit for a bigger opportunity.
The band closed out its preliminary set list by jamming the shred-metal anthem “This War is Ours (The Guillotine II),” which opens with an ear-piercing, gut-wrenching guitar solo and features another intricate virtuoso guitar part near the final chorus.
The song was met with the rowdiest of fanfare as it gave way for Mabbitt to command the crowd to split the room and then converge in a gyrating circle pit as Hoffman launched into his second solo of the song.
Although this gave Hoffman the opportunity he had waited all night for, Hoffman kicked off the band’s encore set by shredding a jaw-dropping solo that ended with him paying tribute to one of the best axmen in the history of rock ’n’ roll, Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen — who passed away in 2021.
Rounding out the evening was a tune teased during the band’s intro, the anthem “One for the Money” — which ended in a legendary fashion as Bell strummed the final notes of the song while standing on top of a congregation of fans who joined hands to support his weight.
Following the show, some fans hung back to take photos and mingle with the opening acts, purchase merchandise or sip what was left of their drinks before heading home from the Friday night affair.
Not My Problem
H8 MY SELF
10 Miles Wide
This War Is Ours (The Guillotine II)
One for the Money (Encore)